Distinction Between Man and Heaven
This term refers to a world outlook and a way of thinking which hold that heaven and man are different. This explanation was first put forward by Xunzi, who did not believe that human morality and the order of human society emanated from heaven. He argued that heaven and man each had a different role and that they should not be mixed. Temporal changes of heaven and earth as well as the occurrence of seasonal changes in temperature and rainfall all belonged to the domain of heaven. They had their normal path, unrelated to human affairs, and were beyond the reach of human power. On the other hand, man’s morality and order in the world belonged to the realm of man. People should be responsible for moral development and social order. Only by making a clear distinction between heaven and man could one develop his abilities on the basis established by heaven, without overstepping into a domain where man was unable to exert his power.
Nature’s ways are constant. They did not exist because Yao was on the throne or disappear because Jie was the ruler… When you work diligently in agriculture and are frugal in expenditures, nature cannot impoverish you. When you are well provided for with what you need and work at the proper time, nature cannot make you sick. When you firmly follow the right path, nature cannot bring you disaster… Therefore, he who understands the distinction between nature and man may be called the wisest man. (Xunzi)